Once mainly visited by volunteers, aid workers and backpackers on a budget, Guatemala has now made it onto the radar of trendsetters and Hollywood stars. With direct flights from multiple destinations in the United States (and from Spain), Guatemala is easy to reach, and citizens of many countries don’t need to pre-apply for a visa to enter Guatemala either.
This places Guatemala's volcanoes, jungles and Mayan ruins within tantalizing reach. However, visa requirements can change, so it’s always advisable to check the latest guidance from Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Relations. It’s also a good idea to check the latest health requirements covering which vaccines you’ll need. If you’ve traveled from a country in South America or Africa, you may need a yellow fever vaccine, regardless of your nationality.
Which nationalities can visit Guatemala without a visa?
Citizens of 83 "Category A" countries, including the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico and most European countries, can enter Guatemala without having to pre-apply for a visa. If you travel with a passport from one of these visa-free countries, you just need to make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months and has at least one blank page. You’ll also need proof of onward travel, such as a round-trip plane ticket.
Providing you meet these requirements for entry, you’ll receive a stamp in your passport on arrival that acts as a Guatemala visa. This stamp is valid for 90 days and allows you to travel to all the CA-4 countries during this period. This means you can spend about three months traveling around Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Who needs a visa to enter Guatemala?
Which countries need a visa to Guatemala? Well, while citizens of Category A countries can visit without a visa, more than 100 nationalities do require visas, and these are divided into Category B and Category C countries. Whether you come from a Category B or a Category C country, you’ll need to pay the visa fee – for a 90-day single-entry visa, it’s US$25, while a 90-day multiple-entry visa costs US$50.
Visa rules for Category B countries
If you come from a Category B country such as India, Moldova or Jamaica, you'll need a visa from a Guatemalan mission in your home country. Contact your nearest Guatemalan embassy to find out exactly what you need and make an appointment. Although you cannot apply for a Guatemalan visa online, you can download the visa application form and fill it in before visiting the embassy.
You'll also need to gather together the required supporting documentation. The embassy will tell you exactly what you need, but the required documents usually include passport photos, proof of a round-trip ticket, bookings for accommodation in Guatemala, bank statements to prove you have sufficient funds for your stay, and health insurance. You'll need to bring all these documents as well as your passport to your application appointment.
Visa rules for Category C countries
If you come from a Category C country such as China, you’ll need to go for an interview at the nearest Guatemalan embassy. The documentation you’ll need for your application is similar to what’s required for Category B countries, with the extra step of the interview – the Guatemalan embassy will be able to tell you exactly what to bring.
Can you extend a Guatemalan visa?
If you want to stay in Guatemala – or rather, in any of the CA-4 countries – for longer than the 90 days your visa is valid, you can apply for an extension for a further 90 days. To do this, visit the offices of the Departamento de Extranjería on 6a Avenida in Zone 4 in Guatemala City. Office hours are from 8am to 4:30pm, but allow plenty of time because the lines can be long.
Download the application form online before you come. You'll also need to submit your passport with your last entrance stamp and provide either an onward travel ticket, an international credit card or evidence of a Guatemalan guarantor. In addition, you must provide proof that you've paid the US$15 extension fee, which is payable at a local bank (they'll give you a receipt when you make the payment).
In practice, it's easier to simply cross the border into a country that is not part of the CA-4 scheme (for example, Belize or Mexico) for a few days and then re-enter Guatemala. However, this is only an option for visa-exempt travelers; if you were required to pre-apply for a visa, you'll need to extend your visa in Guatemala City.
Does Guatemala have a work visa?
If you want to work in Guatemala, you need a work visa, and your prospective employer needs to apply for this on your behalf through the Guatemalan Ministry of Labor. You’ll need to supply your employer with a recent passport photo, your valid passport, a copy of your passport, a criminal background check, and certification from your country of residence verifying that your passport is valid. The first step is finding an employer willing to offer you a job, who can then advise on the process.
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